Gold Cup Preview: USMNT vs. Haiti

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DENY GALLAGHER
USMNT writer

The United States are the class of Group A after earning three points against Honduras on Tuesday. In the second match, the United States look to punch their ticket to the knockout round when they take on Haiti at Gillette Stadium.

Know The Enemy: Haiti

The Haitian National Team had not played much in the year 2015 before their 1-1 draw with Panama to kick off the Gold Cup. Their only match before the tournament was a 2-2 draw with China in Changsha. Prior to that encounter, their last game was the third place match of the Caribbean Cup in November. The 2-1 victory over Cuba secured their second consecutive third place finish in that tournament.

For the Gold Cup, the Haitians have called in a formidable 23-man roster with a few names that the American soccer fan should recognize. The side features six players who ply their trade in the United States. However, only Soni Mustivar plays in Major League Soccer for Sporting Kansas City. Arguably the best player on the ball of these six is Pascal Millien, who has four goals in nine matches in his first season with the Jacksonville Armada. There are three players from this roster in the NASL, two in the USL, and one in MLS.

Haiti will more than likely be led by predominantly European-based players. It starts in the back with captain Johnny Placide, who tends the net at Reims in Ligue 1. The goalkeeper has only made 12 appearances since arriving at the club in 2015.

Depending on the formation that manager Marc Collat uses, American soccer fans could get familiar with MLS journeyman and Charlotte Independence defender Mechack Jérôme. The former Orlando City defender has earned 40 caps with Haiti heading into the Gold Cup. In addition, Haiti’s backline is shaping up to be a combination of Angers defender Jean-Jacques Pierre, Kim Jaggy of Swiss Super League side FC Aarau, and Réginal Goreux who plays in the Russian Premier League.

Haiti gets the result against the United States if they keep most of the team back behind the ball, giving the Americans little room to pass and move. It is important to note that the Haitians are unafraid of being physical and committing fouls. Against Panama, Haiti was called for 24 fouls and received two yellow cards. The Haitians will try to use aggression to take the heavily favored U.S. out of their rhythm early.

Haiti should be concerned about their lack of an offensive threat. In their last match, the side was only able to get two shots on goals against Panama. The defensive chemistry for the United States will more than likely be much improved, making the task of finding the back of the net that much harder for the blue and red.

The American Perspective: Keys to a U.S. Victory

This one seems to be as close to a sure thing as the U.S. will see at the 2015 Gold Cup. Much like the first match against Honduras, Haiti will attempt to enforce their will on the game by being physical and going hard into tackles. While one would hope that the speed, athleticism, and quality of Jurgen Klinsmann’s side would be enough to see this one through, the match may be won or lost on the squad’s ability to finish opportunities from set pieces.

The United States will have their way with Haiti early and often, but this is still a CONCACAF matchup and literally any thing can happen. Do not be surprised if Klinsmann goes with the same starting XI that he used against Honduras. This particular lineup allows for the Americans to use pace down the flanks, while breaking down the opposition through combination play. At some points in the tournament, Alejandro Bedoya and Graham Zusi will return to their respective positions, but the speed and athleticism provided by Gyasi Zardes and DeAndre Yedlin are vital to breaking down a scrappy team like Haiti.

Projected Starting XI

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